Some ships diverted to Halifax; companies avoiding locked out Montreal port

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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MONTREAL — Cargo ship traffic is being diverted to Halifax and the United States from the Port of Montreal where the lockout of 900 longshoremen has closed it to all traffic.

Locked-out longshoremen man the picket lines at the Port of Montreal. Monday morning, management locked out the workers, who have been without a contract since 2008. — Photo by The Canadian Press

Halifax Port Authority spokeswoman Michele Peveril said three ships with cargo containers that were destined for Montreal had come to the Halifax port this week.

Two more vessels with cargo containers originally headed to Montreal were expected to arrive in Halifax today, she said.

“It’s still relatively early into this situation in Montreal and it’s difficult for our port to predict what will come in the next few days or weeks,” Peveril said Wednesday.

“It’s a situation that we’ll continue to monitor,” she said.

Negotiations between the union representing the longshoremen and the Maritime Employers Association were scheduled to resume Thursday with the help of a mediator.

The longshoremen were locked out Monday by their employers over pressure tactics used in their contract dispute.

At issue for the union is job security, as well as keeping guaranteed payments when longshoremen are on call and waiting for work.

A spokesman for the employers association said ships were also being redirected to New York and Norfolk, Va.

Truckers and paper products company Cascades have said they were starting to feel the effects of the lockout. Wal-Mart Canada has said it was taking steps to minimize the effects of the labour dispute.

“It’s still relatively early into this situation in Montreal and it’s difficult for our port to predict what will come in the next few days or weeks,” Michele Peveril

Other companies were also taking measures to avoid the lockout.

Retailer Hudson’s Bay Co. said Wednesday it has been able to minimize any disruptions by diverting containers already in transit to other locations.

Furniture and home accessories company IKEA said it also has taken steps to avoid the Montreal port.

“Some of our shipments do come through the Montreal port, but for now any expected deliveries will be re-routed through New York, where most of our products come through anyway,” said spokeswoman Debbie McDowell.

“We are actively working with our distribution partners to steer or divert any future deliveries to other ports,” McDowell said.

In Vancouver, Transport Minister John Baird said he was following the situation closely and its effects on the economy.

“We’ve seen some traffic begin to bleed to Quebec City and even New York and New Jersey, even before the lockout,” Baird said.

“Obviously, we’re tremendously concerned about the effect, not just in the Montreal area, but in southern Ontario and southern Quebec, the manufacturing sector, the auto sector, which is still in a fragile recovery.”

Organizations: Halifax Port Authority, Maritime Employers Association, Cascades Wal-Mart Canada IKEA

Geographic location: Montreal, Halifax, New York Norfolk, Va. Vancouver Quebec City New Jersey Southern Ontario Southern Quebec

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